Rescue operation ends, LASG may charge owner with manslaughter
Akinpelu Dada, Etim Ekipmah, Maureen Ihua-Maduenyi Oluwatobi Akindele and Oluwatosin Omojuyigbe
A day after the fatal collapse of a three-storey building on No. 63 Massey Street, Ita Faaji, Lagos Island, a woman, Mrs Adedayo Adedoyin, who lost one of her twin daughters in the incident, has begged the state government to ensure that her surviving child does not die.
About 50 persons, including pupils and other residents of the building, were rescued from the rubble by emergency workers and taken to the Lagos Island General Hospital, Massey Children Hospital, Lagos University Teaching Hospital and the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital.
Ijayat’s eldest daughter died in the accident, while the two others are currently receiving treatment at the surgical emergency unit of LASUTH.
“One of my children has been pronounced dead, while the other two are still receiving treatment. We pray the Lord to give us the strength to go through this trying time, because we have lost everything and I don’t know where we are going to start from; we beg the government to come to our aid,” she said
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“The government should help us; my son has an injury on the head and he is in pain. His head is swollen, so we beg the government to continue to appeal to the doctors to continue with the treatment of the victims.
“I have done several X-rays of the body and the whole body is okay except for the swollen head, but the doctors said they would check the x-ray result to see what is wrong but they have not checked it.”
The Medical Director, Lagos Island General Hospital, Dr Ismaila Igbanikale, said some pupils affected by the collapse were in stable conditions and were receiving adequate medical attention.
The General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Adeshina Tiamiyu, while addressing journalists on Thursday, confirmed the end of the rescue operation, adding that nobody was under the debris as all the victims had been rescued.
This was just as the state government gave an indication that it would charge the owner of the collapsed building with manslaughter because he refused to obey the order to evacuate all tenants from the structure, which had earlier been marked as unfit for human habitation.
The Secretary, Lagos State Building Control Agency, Mr Tayo Fakolujo, said the owner of the building would be charged for manslaughter and if found guilty, he could be jailed for life or a minimum of seven years in prison.
According to Fakolujo, the owner of the collapsed building violated the Lagos State Planning Law of 2010 by removing the seal on the building after it was identified as distressed and marked for investigation and possible demolition.
Fakolujo stated, “Definitely, we are going to prosecute him for violating the Lagos State Planning Law of 2010. We are not trying him with our normal law, because of the gravity of the incident. He will be charged for manslaughter and if found guilty, he could get between life sentence and seven years imprisonment.
“The issue is still under investigation and we are on the lookout for him; we are checking our data to identify the owner; when things like this happen, some of them go into hiding. There are times when the actual owner of the land is different from the person developing it, especially on the Lagos Island.
“That is why we are painstaking in identifying him so that we don’t transfer our aggression on an innocent person. If you break the government’s seal, the person will be taken to court for prosecution. The building was sealed off after it was identified as being distressed. When a building is identified as such, we seal it off and evacuate everybody inside it, which was what we did.
“Once we evacuate all of them, we give the landlords letters to carry out certain procedures, but the owner of the building broke the seal and all those who were evacuated went back in as tenants. Even when the building was standing, it was difficult to tell if there was a school there.”
Fakolujo said most of the buildings around the area had been marked as distressed and undergoing investigation, while the landlords were asked to subject the structures to integrity tests, which some of them had not done.
He said, “We stopped work at 3am after recovering the lifeless body of a male and we are sure there is no more casualty left in the debris. Yes, we had support from so many people, especially the residents, but we were equally hampered by the fact that we had too many people around the incident scene, which is not a good thing.
“We are still putting up reports so, we cannot give a specific figure of the casualties involved but hopefully by the end of today (Thursday), the Lagos State Ministry of Health will release the accurate figure.
“The reason why we have to clear the rubble is to erase ease the doubts of people that there are still bodies yet unaccounted for and for people to easily forget the incident and get it behind them. If the building is still standing in its fallen state, people may want to come and take personal effects; some people may want to come and scavenge on the waste, which lead to people getting injured; we want to avoid secondary accidents.”
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“It is only the school administrator that can tell us the number of pupils in the school, but the proprietor is also at the hospital receiving treatment and we can’t confirm that now.”
Tiamiyu, who stated that the residents requested the demolition of more buildings in the area, which had shown signs of weakness, added that LASEMA could not honour such requests without the backing of the law.
“Just as the governor said when he came yesterday (Wednesday), necessary measures will be taken to examine the buildings marked for demolition; any one that fails the integrity test, it is until then that we can come in to bring down any building marked for demolition,” he added.
The Director of Search and Rescue, National Emergency Management Agency, Air Commodore Akugbe Iyamu, represented the Federal Government at the scene of the incident for a first-hand assessment of the extent of damage and to look at preventive measures that could jointly be adopted by the federal and state governments to forestall frequent collapse of buildings.
“There are over 1,000 distressed buildings of this nature on Lagos Island, which, if nothing is done to demolish them, they will still collapse and result in more calamities. The collapsed building had been marked for demolition about three times, but the building regulatory agency did not demolish it,” he stated.
The President, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Mr Lekwa Ezutah, told one of our correspondents that the owner of the building should be sanctioned for putting a distressed building to public use.
Ezutah stated, “We express our heartfelt sympathy to those who were injured in the incident and wish them quick recovery, while the institute advocates that a strong inquiry should be made on the incident and the culprits sanctioned appropriately.
“Developers are also advised to ensure that they engage qualified professionals on their projects and avoid changing land use approvals.”
Students in solidarity demonstration
The students, who carried placards with various inscriptions like ‘Group of schools commiserate with the departed souls’, ‘Save our souls from quack developers’, and ‘We pray God to grant the families of the departed the fortitude to bear the loss’, said government intervention in the incessant collapse of buildings on Lagos Island was imperative.
One of the teachers at the school, Olabode Sokunbi, who spoke on behalf of the students, said buildings should be subjected to tests to avoid collapse.
A self-imposed calamity — BCPG
He said, “All the buildings around us pass through the same process, where businessmen and traders venture into building construction for the purpose of profiteering. They have no knowledge of how to handle construction. What’s unfortunate is that the government and the people allow illegality to reign in an enlightened domain like Lagos Island.
“Lagos Island used to be the base of the master builders, who were returnees from Brazil. And they were the ones constructing magnificent buildings all over the West African coast towns and cities, but it is ironical that today, this particular base has turned out to be a base of substandard construction leading to building collapse.”
Residents tell their tales
She said, “I live behind the collapsed building. We have been complaining about the fact that the small particles from the house fly into our compound but nothing was done about it. When the building collapsed, it affected our building, which is a bungalow.
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Another resident, Oluwaseun Ajayi, who was involved in the rescue operation before the arrival of government agencies, said the affected building had been marked for demolition twice before the collapse.
Lagos Island’s unapproved school buildings sealed
In a statement signed by the Chief Public Affairs Officers, LASBCA, Mrs Titi Ajirotutu and Mr Gbadeyan Adbulraheem, on Thursday, the agency said it would work with the Office of Education Quality Assurance under the Lagos State Ministry of Education to identify such schools and shut them down.
The General Manager, LASBCA, Mr Lekan Shodeinde, was quoted to have said the decision was a follow-up to the collapse of a building on Wednesday at Ita Faaji, Lagos Island, where pupils of an unapproved school were some of the victims.
“As part of the efforts to stem the incidents of building collapse in the state, the Lagos State Government, through the Lagos State Building Control Agency, has commenced the sealing of unapproved residential building converted illegally for school operations within the state,” the statement read in part.
Idera Sasore, the mother of Abdulkabir Sasore, one of the victims of the collapsed building at Ita Faaji area on the Lagos Island, on Thursday, expressed anxiety over the well-being of her child even after his discharge from the hospital.
Idera told our correspondent during a visit to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, where some of the victims were rushed to on Wednesday, that she was afraid for the state of her son because of the pain he was currently going through.
She said, “I was the one who took him to school that morning around 8am and I went back home to rest, because I was not feeling well.
“When he was brought out, the skin at the back of his head, neck and chin had peeled off; there was a cut on his ear and face. I didn’t believe he could survive the incident until I saw that he was alive.
The Public Relations Officer of LASUTH, Ronke Bello, confirmed to our correspondent that seven victims (five children and two adults) were admitted to the facility but could not confirm their state of health.
Red Cross, others appeal for blood donation
The Secretary, NRC, Lagos, Mr Olakunle Lasisi, made the appeal in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday.
Speaking on the hashtags, #DonateForItafaji and #savetheitafajichildren trending on social media, to solicit blood donation from the public, he said the Red Cross would partake in the exercise.
Lasisi said, “When an incident like this happens, blood donation is always required to meet the demand of those in need of blood transfusion. It is a good opportunity for the blood bank to replenish because there are people who want to assist.
Obi, Obaseki mourn
Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat visit site, survivors
Sanwo-Olu, who also visited the site of the collapsed building at Ita Faaji, Lagos Island to assess the rescue operations, sympathised with the residents, who lost loved ones in the tragedy, commended the efforts of the emergency and rescue workers.
Additional reports by: Friday Olokor, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Tare Youdeowei and Tony Okafor
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